It took me almost four years to find out that in 2007 the US Department of Agriculture approved commercial production of the first genetically modified food crop containing human genes, a “laboratory-created rice [that] produces some of the human proteins found in breast milk and saliva.” In my head, my reaction to this was incredible disgust mingled with angry expletives and a little bit of fear. From what I’ve learned about genetically modified organisms, this paves the way for the seeds to be patented — in other words, effectively patenting human genes. Patenting pig genes was bad enough.
I’m extremely skeptical that the “good intentions” of treating “children with diarrhoea, a major killer in the Third World”, are actually valid. Genetic modification has a history of being touted as a way to solve food shortages, but they wind up leaving GM farmers poor, and organic farmers sued when seeds contaminate their crops. As for these children, attempting to treat them with GM products — any negative consequences of which may be unknown — is akin to us focusing the bulk of our efforts on curing cancer and diabetes and almost completely ignoring prevention. We should be ensuring access to healthy food, clean water, and education. Whatever Monsanto and other GE agribusinesses say about solving developing nations’ problems with their products is complete bullshit.
If you’re reading this you might be as last-minute with your holiday shopping as I tend to be. Admittedly my post itself is last-minute. I’ve done half my shopping and, this year, with each item I’ve put more thought than ever into what effect each will have on this finite planet. If you’re the kind of giver that prefers to give an item rather than an experience, make it meaningful not just as a useful object but as one with the smallest environmental impact possible.
Before I tell you how easy it is to be eco-conscious at Christmas, you might want to know why you should:
* according to Statistics Canada, 900,000 tonnes of garbage is produced between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year
* transportion of gifts that are produced a great distance away, whether it’s Califonia or China, emits greenhouse gases that pollute our air and contribute to climate change
* logging of old-growth forests to produce “virgin” paper products releases CO2 into the atmosphere and threatens animal habitat (think of the caribou and the owls!)
* conventional plastic is a petroleum-based product, which carries a triple-threat carbon footprint
* it takes resources and produces waste to make something new and to recycle or dispose of it at the end of its life cycle (which, these days, is often pretty short!)
* that regiftable stuff is better off loved by someone else than being a guilt trip in your closet for you or your kids!
* buying local supports the local economy and friends of your friends
* and more environmental, ethical and health-related reasons…
h3. Ok, I get it. I’ll be good this year. How easy is it?
Got a bookstore nearby? A Choices/Capers/Whole Foods? MEC? Independent coffee shop? Granville Island? Main St or Commercial Drive? You can make smart choices anywhere — that includes IKEA. I did not have to go out of my way to get smart gifts for my family. A bit of thoughtfulness and planning is all it takes. And do I ever feel good about it!
Well, my post was unfortunately premature… by a year, now, in fact, as this year’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday has been cancelled due to the forest fires. The 5th annual event will occur August 15th, 2010. I’m very disappointed, but all is not lost as on the 22nd and 23rd there are cycle farm tours in Agassiz and Chilliwack by Slow Food Vancouver, although these require advanced registration and cost $10 — $20. I’m going to get on that and invite the folks who were planning to attend the Pemberton event. Too bad! If you still want the amazing potatoes, however, visit a Vancouver Farmers Market and look for Helmer’s.
On Sunday, August 16th, we’re celebrating the 5th annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday in scenic Pemberton, BC.* The flat, paved road through the farming valley is perfect for cyclists of any age and skill level. And of course, what we’re ultimately drawn together here for is the food! After my first trip last year, which was capped by a traffic jam on the way home that had us moving slower than a kid on a bicycle, I felt the potatoes alone were SO worth the 50 km ride and the road trip. They are phenomenal.